June is convocation month, and all around the world students are celebrated as they make their way out of their post-secondary, and often, personal, nests as they fly toward the next phase of their lives.
Most of us watch them cross the stage with joy at the possibilities that we imagine for them, as well as envy at, again, those same possibilities that we may or may not have taken advantage of at the time of our ‘flight’ from the nest.
In either case, it’s a time of celebration, not only of the students, but also of the parents who helped lay the foundation of the ‘runway’ from which their child will take flight.
Recently, I was honoured to be invited to a commencement ceremony where I was able to watch with great pride as the Grade 12 students walked across the stage to accept their diplomas to the cheers of friends and parents alike; I knew four of those students, and I happened to be sitting with the family of one of them.
These parents were filled with pride at what their daughter had achieved during her young life thus far, and as I turned to observe the look of love on the face of the father I was sitting next to, I just happened to glance down and noticed that he was wearing two different coloured socks!
Thinking for a moment that he’d perhaps been too excited to focus on the task of choosing socks that matched, I soon learned he was wearing socks that represented the colours of the school. I was delighted, and also touched by the deep commitment that was reflected in this small gesture.
I know the parents well, and, as a result, I’m privy to the sort of dedication they’ve made to all of their children since the day they were born. Unfortunately, not all children are as fortunate.
As is often the case, due to my role as a psychotherapist, I’m constantly reminded of the impact parents have on the self-esteem of their children. I’m not sure if they’re aware of the indelible influence they will have on their offspring, and the degree to which their children will be affected by the level of commitment they offered them throughout their childhood and beyond.
But, without doubt, it often results in the difference between a child who grows, thrives, and is able to push forward in life with confidence, and another child who’s fearful of the unknown, experiences anxiety about how the world might perceive them, and is anything but self-assured. I see the fingerprints of unconscious parenting on my clients psychic selves each and every day, and pray that more parents will gain greater awareness than they currently appear to have.
In a profession that has studied a phenomenon called ‘absence theory’, that is, the long-term impact the absence of a particular parent has had upon a child, we’ve often arrived at the conclusion that the absence of an unconscious and uncommitted parent is far less damaging than the presence of a parent of the same description.
Having been born to parents of the latter type, I know well how challenging it is to crawl out of that abyss in young adulthood to build a foundation of self-esteem and worthiness. It is possible, of course, many do, but without a doubt, it often takes everything we have to do so, and naturally several of us wonder who we may have been had we not had to face that challenge in the first place.
But, as lemons make lemonade, we can turn that around and see that our struggle created within us a person who can offer strength, hope, and encouragement to others who are battling similar wars within.
So that’s the good news fostered from the not-so-good news. But if we hope for the very best for our children, we must rise much higher than ‘unconsciousness’ in our role as parents. It’s vital that we offer them the grounding, the active guidance, love, and patience that will send them off that runway strong and excited to reach toward their next path.
This priceless gift, bestowed with unconditional love, is what I witnessed on that commencement day in all four students who grew from parents who unequivocally understood their role in building a child with self-esteem and self-respect.
So this post is dedicated to you, and to all parents with similar awareness.
Thank you for all you’ve done for your children, not the least of which was to provide them a living example, when the time comes, of how to be parents themselves.